More Than a Conqueror (Revisited)
A follow up interview with young adult cancer survivor Jenna Holden.
Not much holds Jenna Holden back from living her life to the fullest these days. Not her diagnosis of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis in 2012 or any of the recurrences she has faced, nor other setbacks related to the pandemic.
Jenna first appeared in “More Than a Conqueror” on Hope Has Arrived in December of 2019.
Her story has been read by more than 6,637 people and counting. She continues to live in hope and wants to help encourage others facing cancer. Besides this story, she also wrote a guest post, “The Power of Practicing Gratitude.”
We recently took the opportunity to interview Jenna again to ask about a health update, what she is up to and for more advice for others facing cancer.
Q: How has life been going for you since we last talked in 2019?
I am doing well. The pandemic has been hard on a lot of people, and I’ve faced challenges, too, but I feel like this past year and a half has helped me grow and find some new opportunities. I took a new job that I love, and I have also been writing and thinking of ways I can help others.
Q: How has your health been?
My health has been good. I’ve had no recurrences of cancer and my scans continue to be clear. My full body CT scan got dropped to every 2 years, which is a good sign. I’m going on four years of being cancer free, which I am grateful for.
Q: Any new insights as it relates to your cancer journey?
As time has passed, I have realized that my story is not just for me, but I want to use it to help others. Recently, I started a writing project that features some tools I used on my journey to help get through it. It’s a work in progress, but I’m including these little lessons that I learned that helped me build resilience, including practicing gratitude.
Q: Speaking of gratitude, I noticed you recently did another 30 Days of Gratitude. Can you tell me more about that?
I’ve done this challenge for the past few years, and I have found it to be one of my favorite traditions. Each day, I highlight one thing I’m thankful for in my journal and then I often share it on social media. I practice gratitude throughout the year, but I do my 30 days in November, as it is a great time to reflect on blessings and give thanks.
Q: Why have you been focusing on gratitude?
For me, gratitude was something that helped me profoundly during my cancer journey. In my post on Hope Has Arrived, I share more about how practicing gratitude is a great way to infuse positivity, hope and perspective into a person’s life. And I encourage people to try it, especially if they are facing a difficult situation.
Q: You have often said your relationship with God has been vital on your cancer journey. How does gratitude affect that?
When I give thanks, I often do so to God because I see him as my provider and the source from whom my needs are met and blessings flow. I feel peace when I look to him with thanksgiving instead of looking at my life through the lens of my problems.
Q: For someone who doesn’t come from a spiritual or religious background, how might gratitude be helpful?
Everyone can experience the benefits of gratitude and I think it points to the existence of God. Many psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists are learning about the positive effects of gratitude on our brain and body and encouraging people to practice it. As I have studied the Bible and what it says about giving thanks, I realized that this practice was God’s idea first—the Bible has been saying to practice gratitude for thousands of years. Whatever you believe, gratitude will bring blessing in your life.
Q: You mentioned a career change. Can you share more about that?
I used to work in outdoor recreation and I recently took a job as the Employee Wellness Program Coordinator for a large health care system in California. My job is to promote holistic care for all the employees—doctors, PAs, nurses, etc.—to help them put on their own oxygen mask before helping others get a breath, so to speak. What’s interesting is that a lot of the traits that helped me build resilience during my cancer journey are what I draw upon as I seek to help them.
Q: What gives you life these days?
I like to stay connected with the things that matter most to me. Each day I take a few minutes to pause and reflect and pray and spend time reading my Bible. I also volunteer at my church and get out and explore the outdoors as much as possible, especially through trail running or rock climbing—I’m planning to sign up for some long distance running events in the near future.
Q: How has your life changed in survivorship with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis?
When I was first going through the treatment, I was just doing the best I could to make it through. Now in this season, I want to help others who are going through cancer. My new challenge is applying what I’ve learned on my journey to situations outside of myself.
Q: Any new advice you want to share for someone who is facing cancer right now?
I want people to consider how our perspective changes over time on the cancer journey. While you are in the thick of it, it is hard to see the big picture. As your story progresses and time passes, you start to gain more perspective and those insights can help you stay hopeful and live life more fully.
Thanks again to Jenna for the interview and writing a guest post for Hope Has Arrived!
We find it fitting to end this article with some of her encouraging words from More Than a Conqueror:
“When going through a challenging time it helps to have something grounded to reflect on. Not just a positive thought or an encouraging story, but an irrefutable truth you can anchor to even when everything around you seems to be up in the air. I found an undeniable peace when I put my fortitude and hope in God. Waking up from surgery or alone in the doctor’s office facing a recurrence, at times when no human should typically feel calm or safe, I experienced the “peace that surpasses understanding” referred to in the Bible.”
To read Jenna’s full story, see More Than a Conqueror.
For help with finding peace, see The Gift of Peace.
To find help on your journey like Jenna has, read Asking God for Help.